For me, Target became a non-negotiable nearby amenity while I was growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada. I loved grabbing a coffee from Starbucks, thumbing through video games, and thinking about purchasing Threshold floor lamps for an apartment far away. Now, as an adult with disposable income living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it's all about the routine runs of charcoal face masks, $15 joggers, Spindrift seltzers, and on-trend serving ware for hosting.
I chose to live close-by to a Target because of my errand workflow and distinctly millennial budget. But, like any consumer-focused endeavor, while there are some huge upsides to convenience and product availability, there are some not-so-great things, too.
Pro: You will pay less for essentials.
When I was in college in Boston proper, the only place that was nearby to pick up toiletries was CVS. Back home, I was used to paying $12 for a pack of deodorant—but at CVS that was sometimes the cost of one stick! But I soon found out that the nearest Target was only 3 miles away by cab or 45 minutes on public transit—and that I could expect near-to-Las Vegas prices at Target. When I moved to Cambridge, I found that these CVS-inflated prices weren't just on campus, so having a Target within walking distance to pick up my necessities meant I was saving money overall. Up & Up, Target's generic brand, is always more affordable than the product it seeks to dupe, and oftentimes, it's just as stylish.
Pro: You don't have to spend your Saturdays running "errands"
When a Target is in your warpath, you don't have to route an exhausting Saturday morning of errands bouncing between three different retailers when you'd rather spend the day in bed. Polish off medicine, tonight's dinner, a birthday gift, and heels to complete that dress you own that doesn't match anything, all on the way home from work. Looking back on Saturdays at the beginning of my career where I borrowed a car and planned a whole morning to run errands, I'm so grateful I can now just take a brisk walk whenever I run out of shampoo.
Pro: You can get literally everything.
Prime Now is great, but they don't stock everything. They also don't have fresh fruit, beach chairs, Pepto, or full-size bicycles. Target does! Target is also different than just a grocery store or a pharmacy because they also have homewares and other essentials. Target is always there, usually open, and has almost everything. Case in point: I was one of those fools who promised cocktails to friends that required one. After starting prep in my kitchen, I realized I didn't have a cocktail shaker, so I ran to Target and was back at home rattling ice and cocktail ingredients around in less than 30 minutes. I also paid only about $10 for it. I've also needed a certain color shirt for a video shoot at the last minute, so I ran over, spent $7, and continued with my productivity. I've saved so much time, money, and stress on these impromptu trips.
Pro: They offer ways to save that other stores don't.
If you have a RedCard (Target's branded credit or debit card), you can validate a lot of frivolous purchases by convincing yourself that you're saving an extra 5 percent. But you have to remember: You are also saving 5 percent on the things you need, on top of the savings you have just from shopping at Target.
Also if you don't know about Target app's Cartwheel section, you should get on that—stat. It offers coupons and other in-store deals. While I've found they're not all that helpful when making weekly or monthly Target runs, since you're likely buying what you need, not what has a coupon, I've saved a lot of money planning my trips around the app. Since I live only a few blocks away, I can monitor the Cartwheel offers when I'm at home and then walk on over when the things I need suddenly go on sale.
Con: You will absolutely spend more than you intended at first.
For those who have gone to Target looking for one $5 thing and coming out having spent $75 on a whole lot of impulse purchases, you know the Target-affect is real. I have to be on-my best behavior at all times, otherwise I'm going to fill my basket with things I don't need. I try to zip past the front-of-the-store bargain section unless I'm decorating for a holiday, in which case it's the only financially viable way to put up the quantity of string lights I require for the holidays. Otherwise, the temptation to grab $1 notepads and $3 desk planners can mount up quickly. So can the Star Wars Lego kit, $5 Starbucks drinks, and $15 oh-so-soft joggers.
When I first moved into my Cambridge apartment, I estimate that I spent about $500 on these seasonal, discretionary purchases over the first year. Yikes! Now, understanding that these small purchases can escalate, I actually give myself an impulse buy budget. Also, if I know I can't say no to the trinkets (hey, Star Wars/Christmas overlap), I'll even order ahead online and pickup from customer service to limit these fringe purchases.